The recent Global Economic Forum at Davos saw an interesting session on Trade in Critical Raw Materials. Hosted by EBRD, the discussion was led by EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, WTO President Ngosi Okono-Iweala, EBRD President Odile Renaud-Basso and Rio Tinto’s Jacob Stausholm. Issues emphasized included the need to diversify sources of supply of CRMs ; cooperation agreements between the EU and third countries; the need for added value for host countries from mining and the dangers of trade fragmentation. The long term nature of the mining cycle form exploration to production to restoration was generally recognized, as was the scale of the challenge in finding and developing the greatly increased amount of minerals needed to support decarbonisation.
A fundamental problem facing the process is public understanding and acceptance of the need for increased amounts of CRMs. A legacy of some poorly regulated and damaging operations has led to suspicion and resistance to projects. Industry and governments need to engage with civil society to understand and explain the issues and to provide reliable and credible regulation for the sector.
Examples of good practice are the “Green Metals ” publication by Geological Survey Ireland and studies on public perception by the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences.